Wednesday 17 November is World Prematurity Day and we mark the occasion by re-visiting baby Millie who is the smallest baby to have born in North Queensland at just 430 grams. We featured Millie in our Mother’s Day story this year along with mum Brooke Crothers.
Millie was born in February 26 weeks into the pregnancy and spent her first 105 days in Special Care Nursery, firstly in Townsville before transferring back to Cairns.
‘She’s had a pretty cruisy run considering how small she was,’ said Brooke.
‘She didn’t need to be intubated to help with her breathing which surprised everyone, and she has just grown and got stronger with each week. I’m so proud of her and how well she is doing, she really has become quite the character, my little Queen of sass.’
‘The biggest challenge for me has been the germs. Because she has chronic lung disease if she catches a cold, she is more at risk of being admitted to hospital because her lungs are not as developed as a baby born at term. So, I’m always trying to avoid germy situations.’
Brooke found there was plenty of support available when she was in hospital and in the months following discharge.
‘It was great to chat to the other mothers in the unit as they had experienced similar issues so we could all support each other,’ he said.
‘The hospital also offers support through social workers, psychologists and outreach programmes with community health that will help us until Millie is 5 years old.’
Donna Martin, nurse unit manager of the Special Care Nursery at Cairns Hospital agrees that new parents need support as those initial few days can be quite strange and confronting.
‘If they aren’t used to the environment or haven’t had a premature baby before or even if it’s their first baby like Millie, it can be quite a scary environment. There are lots of machines, equipment and monitors which can be noisy, and there are always lots of staff around,’ said Donna.
‘We try and put the families at ease and work with them to make it as family centred as possible. We have 24-hour visiting and encourage skin-to-skin cuddles as soon after birth as possible once the baby has stabilised.’
The Special Care Nursery in Cairns Hospital admits babies from 29 weeks of age, these babies can have several complications including trouble with maintaining blood sugars or regulating their temperatures. Many of these pre-term babies need help with feeding and often are fed through a tube before they go onto establish breast or bottle feeding.
When asked about the favourite part of her job, Donna Martin cuddles Millie and has no hesitation in giving her answer.
‘I love this, the babies coming back in to visit when they are big and strong,’ she said.
‘We have babies that spend weeks or months with us, and we really get to know them and their families. It’s really nice to see them like this – a smiling rolling baby being Queen of sass!’
World Prematurity Day is held on 17 November each year. Every year, more than 27,000 babies are born too early in Australia. Some of these babies die and many more face serious, lifelong health challenges.
World Prematurity Day aims to increase awareness of pre-term births and the challenges that their families face.
Read more about World Prematurity Day.